Driving Mountain Roads in Northern Thailand …

Chiang Rai is a great staging point for exploring Northern Thailand.  The options for day trips are many and include places like Mae Salong, Doi Tung, Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Pha Tang, Phu Chi Fa, Phu Sang Waterfall, Phayao, and many other interesting destinations in and around Chiang Rai.

Occasionally one feels the need to travel further afield, as we did this last week.  Taking advantage of my wife being on holiday from her university studies, we decided it had been too long since we had been to Pai and beyond.  So we arranged for family to watch the house and dogs, packed up the Fortuner and off we went.  We covered a total of 1167 torturous but beautiful kilometers and went from 365 meters at home to 2565 meters above sea level on top of Doi Inthanon.

First we headed to town and then off in the direction of Chiang Mai.  At Mae Suai we turned right onto the 109 headed for Fang.  Our first stop was to visit friends in Fang on the 107.  Visit complete, we continued on the 107 to our first destination, Doi Angkhang high in the mountains.

It is quite a steep and twisty climb up the mountain but that is exactly what I was looking for on this trip.  We arrived in time to search around for a place to stay.  Things had changed a lot since the last time I had been up there so we needed to checkout the options.  The cottages located inside the park were full and we didn’t feel like staying in budget accommodation, so fortunately we found a room at the Angkhang Nature Resort.

There were a surprising number of people with the same idea we had of missing the winter crowds, but we were fortunate enough to get a very nice room for 1600 baht.  Most of the visitors were Thai families but the second day a number of French tourists checked into our hotel.  When the temperature dropped to 10 at night we were glad to find the switch for the thermal pad built into the bed, and were soon all toasty and comfortable for the rest of the night.  We liked the place so much we extended our stay one more day.

We got up early the first morning, to try our luck at catching the sunrise from a popular mountain top viewing point.  The sunrise was not great but it was still and interesting experience with all the people milling around and my wife bought some small gifts from the girls selling handicrafts.

After a wonderful breakfast back at the hotel, we walked the three kilometer loop through the park exploring every display and side trail.  They were busy getting things ready for the winter rush, planting strawberries and flowers.  Still it was very lush and green after all the rain we have had this year.  The fruit trees were eerie looking stick figures, far bigger than I remember from my last visit.

Later in the day we drove to Ban Nor-Lae to look from the Thai military camp over into the Burmese encampment on the opposite hilltop.  Later we went to Ban Khop Dong which turns out to be a very appropriate name for the village, with their little shacks perch on the cliff edge above the basket like valley and their terraced farms.

After our second night at Angkhang Nature Resort, we got up early and hit the road for Pai.  Overnight the remnants of a tropical storm had settled over Thailand and we found ourselves shrouded in cloud and mist as we headed down with nearly zero visibility, at least until we were better than halfway down the mountain.

As it turned out the sun didn’t come out for the rest of our trip but somehow I enjoyed the misty forests and cool weather.  Even with limited photographic opportunities, I still came home with a couple hundred shots.  I was merciless and soon pared that down by half when I returned home.

In part two I will cover Pai and beyond but for now I want to share some photos from Doi Angkhang.
Angkhang Nature Resort

Our accommodation.

Enjoying the view from the balcony.
The sunrise scene.

Our view during breakfast.

Planting the terraces for the peak winter season.

Budget accommodation back on the hillside.

Flowers.
In the peach grove.

Vegetables in front and peach trees across the road.



Time for a lunch break.

More flowers.


Looking across into Burma.

Weaving scarves for sale.

I think you can guess which one I would choose.

Buying avocados.

Handicrafts for sale.

Khop Dong Village